“Wrong" by Todd Grimson, page 5

         There is this motel up a few blocks from Williams, on San Rafael, way before you reach Monroe. It looked at that time sort of dilapidated-modern, and built as it was some distance away from any busy street, you wondered what they could ever have had in mind. It was turquoise, mostly, and salmon-pink. A red Coke machine down below, next to the office. Inside the office, the flickering bluish light of a TV. We snuck past this, and went upstairs.
        Crystal had on jeans, a faded print blouse, and a letterman's jacket, cream body and wine-red sleeves, too big for her, from Jesuit High. Her hair was down, dark brown, and she didn't have much makeup on. She didn't look too wholesome though. It was in her eyes, or just the look on her face. No, it was there in her eyes.
        "Earl," she said, knocking on the door.
        "Walker sent me. I brought you some food. Barbecue. Let me in."
        "I'm busy, man. Gina's here."
        "Well, Walker sent me by." Crystal hesitated, looked over at me. "If you want to, man, maybe we could do something… like maybe, you know, a two-on-one.
        Inside, Earl laughed. Every second we waited, wondering whether or not he'd open the door, stretched out and felt unlucky, like unless everything went as smoothly as in a dream it would all go wrong.
        Another thing was, we hadn't counted on the girl. I looked at Crystal, silently asking her everything, answering my own questions, in some way detached from the specific situation – I wanted to be there, doing this, and I didn't care where or who it was.
        Earl opened the door, smiling, a very dark black man, shorter than me, and I crashed in and hit him as hard as I could with the gun Crystal had given me earlier from her purse. Gina screamed, and continued to kind of carry on as the door was closed and Crystal said we'll kill you if you don't shut up.
        I hit Earl more than I needed to, it quelled my nervousness, and when I pointed the gun at naked Gina she peed herself, there on the bed. I felt dirty after that.
        "Where's the money?"
        Gina said she didn't know. Earl pretended to be more out of it than he was, acting like I'd knocked him out. Crystal pulled down his boxer shorts, squirted lighter fluid on his private parts, stood back and lit a match.
        Earl told us where. No we didn't burn him, but Crystal said something and I hurt him bad.
        We tied them up in a half-assed fashion, taped their mouths. Crystal only seemed to get scared now, breathing harder, eyes darting around, when we were on our way out.
        There was only one way down, and that meant walking past the office again. The guy in there was a smackhead, he and Walker had known each other in the Army. So the guy, Jimmy, might be on the nod or he might open up, if he suspected anything. He had some guns and had killed a number of Vietnamese. He'd killed people here too. He didn't care.
        "What's happening?" he said, stepping out, friendly enough, spaced. "You're Cathy, right?"
        "Yeah. This is my date."
        "Cathy, why're you here?"
        "I had to pick up some stuff."
        "Oh. Right. Okay. Later, man."
        Jimmy watched us walk across the street and get into the Chrysler. We had thought we better park nearby in case we needed to run.
        Crystal took some pills on the way to the airport, to settle down her nerves. She was happy, sure, we'd divvied up the money in the car, and once she bought her ticket and we were in the United waiting area, sitting down, she started to laugh. She liked me better now, too, but I could tell she wasn't completely at ease about my knowing she was heading to San Antone.
        "They think I'm from California," she said, and laughed, childishly, younger than she'd ever seemed up until now. She didn't look very much like the mysterious person she'd seemed to be when I'd only seen her a moment or two at a time, driving past. But she was fine.
        "How did you happen to come out here?"
        "Everyone always asks me that," she said. But she wasn't really being critical. "I came out with my boyfriend, a year or so ago, and we got into trouble right away. He's in OSP now for ten years."
        "OSP" meant Oregon State Penitentiary.

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